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Friday, December 30, 2011

Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking - by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop MW

I just finished reading the great book - Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking - by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop MW and I was really pleased with the pragmatic way they discussed such a complex subject. In their own words: " There is no such a thing as natural or unnatural wine; rather, the “naturalness” of a wine is most usefully measured on a continuum from least to most natural and takes in many aspects of the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of the raw material: the grape. "

I intend to post several important points of their book here on my blog and, hopefully, many people will show up to share their opinions. Even better if we can get Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop to come here to add some more content to the discussion!
Probably, this is a good way to ignite the discussion:
" What is meant by the term natural? Is wine different from other alcoholic beverages, and why? Is there such a thing as “fake wine”? What is the appropriate use of technology in winemaking? What additions to wine should be allowed, and who gets to decide? And, practically, how can winemakers adjust their methods to make more honest, expressive, and interesting wines? "

Would you care to offer answers to these questions?

Here are some excerpts from the book. They may help you with the challenge:
  • If we accept the idea of a continuum of naturalness, and if we recognize that it is useful to establish just how natural some wines are when compared with others, then a range of choices become available in the vineyard and winery that will shift the wine in one direction or the other along the naturalness continuum.
  • Winemaking faults are often guilty of masking terroir and, in some cases, becoming so entrenched that they become part of it!
  • Like naturalness, the concept of authenticity is a shifting paradigm, and that there are limits to its application for individuals and business. Larger more hierarchical business have greater limitations, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to make more authentic wines.
  • One person’s idea of progress is another’s idea of iconoclastic trashing of valued traditions.
  • The idea that one can taste the earth in a wine is appealing, a welcome link to nature and place in a delocalized world; it has also become a rallying cry in an increasingly sharp debate over the direction of modern winemaking. The trouble is, it’s not true… 
If you haven't bought your copy yet: 

I look forward to dsicussin with you about this fascinating topic... In the mean time, I wish you a very happy and healthy 2012!
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9 comments: said...

As a winemaker, I tend to be a minimalist - leave the wine alone and do as little intervention as possible to make a good wine. We are now growing Katuah Muscadines in our mountaintop vineyard in western NC. Making good wine from them is a special challenge since they tend to be REALLY acidic from the start. I am also generally against GMOs in any form. Gheesh! We don't need them in winemaking until all of the safety tests on consumption is completed. One has to look at the dramatic increase in autism in our children (1 per 10,000 in 1980 to 1 per 100 last year) to see what our uncontrolled food regs are doing. Let the grapes reflect their natural terroir and flavors/aromas in winemaking.
Chuck Blethen
Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard
Marshall NC

Darby from Vinodiversity said...

The idea that natural=good or "organic"=good is pervasive even among people who have a scientific training. It is a powerful marketing tool.

But it is completely CRAZY!

Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance. The organisms causing cholera, malaria and the black death are also natural.

Atropa belladonna, commonly known as Belladonna, Devil's Berries, Death Cherries or Deadly Nightshade is a naturally occurring weed. If you make wine or another drink out of it the result will still be poisonous, no matter how much nonsense you put on the label about natural methods, biodynamics or letting the drink express the terroir.

Magnus Ericsson said...

I think that the "natural" movement is an interesting addition to the world of wine.
But the fact that amazes me the most is that so many so called "traditionalists" seems so agitated and respond in an almost dogmatic and infuriated fashion to the trend.
Sure there is a continuum of "naturalness" and as a winmaker you can be more or less interventionistic in your approach. And it might even be a publicity stunt calling things "natural" (or for that matter "terroir-driven", biodynamic, organic or whatever).
The good thing about todays wine business is that you can choose and I as a customer also got the ability to choose. If I or you don't like "natural" wines - why bother buying them (it's not like the movement is the dominant force in wine today even though it is maybe the strongest trend - I do not have the numbers but I suspect that the total amount of "natural wines" counts in one thousands of the total business or even less)???
As for definitions - it would be great to have one that is both necessary and sufficent - but I suspect that we will never have that. But as long as the wine producer is commpeletely honest with her or his winemaking practices - I do not see that as a problem.
"So this is a wine made without added SO2 - cool! So this is a wine made with small amounts of added sulphur and ambient yeasts - also cool! And this one has added yeasts, controlled levels of sulphur and is made in a reductive style - also cool""
I would love to see a winemaker that does both natural and conventional wines (somewhere along the continuum). Like - this is my non-interventionist chardonnay and this is my all technique interpretation of the same grape. If I were a winemaker I would love to do both! ;)

Jamie said...

Luis thank you for your kind comments on the book - it is meant to offer a fresh perspective on a discussion that has become dominated by entrenched positions and tribal warfare

Luiz Alberto said...

Jeannie, thanks for sharing your experience. Do you know of any studies that show the relation between GMOs and autism in American children? I would be interested in seeing those... Cheers!

Luiz Alberto said...

Hi Darby, I believe as well that some people are using "natural" as a marketing tool. However, those should be the strict minority.
As Jamie mentions in his book "Winegrowers who use terroir as their guiding philosophical framework and focus on the importance of the soil are responsible for a disproportionately large share of the world's most interesting wines".
Would you agree with that?

Luiz Alberto said...

it's great to see you here Magnus! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And I agree with you: "The good thing about today's wine business is that you can choose and I as a customer also got the ability to choose." Cheers!

Luiz Alberto said...

Hi Jamie, my pleasure. That's what I liked the most about the book. Your pragmatic approach brings a totally different perspective to the issue. It's great to have you here and I hope more people will join the discussion and, as you said' "make people think a little about which way to turn at this fork in the road fro global wine production". Cheers!

Tasting Rome said...

I like to think of "natural" wines as authentic wines. I like the idea of having the least amount of intervention as possible. That being said, wine is not "natural" Unless we are eating grapes that have fermented naturally, in ALL wine making there is a like of sweat on the part of humans behind each bottle of wine.